Trying to figure out which beaches are worth a visit on your Maui vacation? When it comes to the Valley Isle, you'll have access to more choices than any other Hawaiian island, with over 30 miles worth of beaches to enjoy. That means whatever your preferences, your favorite beach is out there somewhere. It's just a matter of finding the one that suits you best. This handy guide to the top 10 beaches in West Maui is a convenient way to narrow down your search, especially if you're staying at West Maui accommodations. Most of the following beaches are good for swimming and soaking up the sun, so along with describing their character, we'll highlight whether they're especially good for snorkeling, surfing and families with kids. To keep things simple, we'll start at the southernmost beach at Olowalu and work our way north to end at Kapalua.
Good For: Snorkeling
Olowalu Shoreline includes numerous little beaches that are the first you'll see as you drive from Central Maui to West Maui. Take your pick! These beaches are easy to spot because they're so close to the main road, Honoapi'ilani Highway. Yes, you'll have the sound of cars going by while you're on the beach, but once you've donned your snorkeling gear and begun exploring the incredible coral reefs at this location, you'll forget all about the road. Between the fish, shrimp, urchins, crabs, octopus and other reef dwellers that live amongst these corals, you never know what exciting new sighting to expect. The reefs in this area are shallow, and come very close to the surface, but there are sandy channels you can follow to and from the beach. For the best results, pick your spot bright and early on one of those sparkling clear mornings when the water is barely rippling. Just be careful of the thorns dropped by the kiawe trees.
Kamehameha Iki Beach Park
Good For: Surfing
Just before you reach historic Lahaina Town with its many charming shops and restaurants, you'll find this convenient little beach. From this stretch of sand, you can easily see the scenic Lahaina Harbor not far from its northern end. Also known as Armory Park, Kamehameha Iki is known best for its historic significance, and its two shore breaks. As such, you'll often see surf classes being held here. The south break is best suited to the advanced surfer who is already familiar with it, while the north break provides consistent, small waves suited to beginners. If you'd rather go for a swim, opt for the middle of the beach on calm, clear mornings. If you like watching the surfers, go in the late afternoon, nestle into your beach chair or towel, and enjoy the show!
Good For: Snorkeling
This mile-long stretch of gorgeous white sand is a lovely place to swim, lay out on the sand, and watch the people go by. At its north end, you'll find Black Rock, which anchors plenty of reef for snorkelers to explore. The rock is also used by some adventurous folk for cliff jumping. Kaanapali Beach is home to no less than seven resorts, as well as Whaler's Village, which offers a high-end shopping experience, and several dining options. This beach is best if you want convenient access to food and shopping, and if you enjoy the active buzz of the crowd while still having plenty of space to pick out your own spot on the sand. If you prefer the tranquility of an uncrowded beach, you'll want to skip this one.
Kahekili Beach Park
Good For: Families, Snorkeling
Just north of Kaanapali Beach, you'll find this quieter, less commercial stretch of beautiful sand. Although the beach is soft, you'll find shallow reef as soon as you enter the water. This makes it an excellent place for beginning snorkelers, including young ones. The reefs protect the beach from waves, helping to block currents and keep conditions calm. It's not so ideal for swimming, unless you're snorkeling, but the beach itself is perfectly pleasant for lounging. You'll often see beginning diving classes held here because it's such a nice place to learn, and there isn't much depth to worry about. Green sea turtles frequent the area, and there are plenty of fish and other marine life to see when exploring the reef.
Honokowai Beach Park
Good for: Families, Snorkeling
This cozy little beach is scenic and calm. The reefs lie along the shoreline, forming a safe little pool that young children find delightful to play in. The lush canopy of trees along its edges provide nice spots where parents can sit in the shade chatting, admiring the views and watching the little ones. The beach itself is on the narrow side, but one of the pluses is the gradual slope out in the water. Because it's shallow for quite a long distance, waves don't tend to get very far. The reefs house a lovely array of marine life as well. Nearby, there are several great places to grab food that you can bring with you. To add to its family-friendly quality, this beach is alcohol-free.
Good For: Families
Relatively uncrowded, Napili Bay provides a charming, crescent shaped beach with a moderate slope and a sandy bottom. Although it can be a bit tricky to find parking, but the waters are frequently calm, making it convenient for families with children. As with every beach, conditions can get rough sometimes, usually as the day progresses, so just avoid the water if there are any waves. Sea turtle sightings are common, as there is some reef further out from shore. Being that it fronts a residential neighborhood with some condos, one of the perks is that you get to avoid the commercial elements and the hustle and bustle of the hotels. That being said, there are conveniences at this beach, including bathrooms, a general store and some nearby restaurants.
Good For: snorkeling
In Hawaiian, Oneloa means "long sand," which is appropriate, given it's a quarter of a mile in length. For all its space and beauty, you'll find that it tends to be uncrowded. The eastern end of the beach is home to a shallow reef near the parking lot path, but the western end has a pleasantly sandy bottom. You can find nice snorkeling areas on both ends. Its finest feature is its peaceful atmosphere. Most people overlook it, although it can be conveniently accessed by the Kapalua Coastal Trail, which fronts the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Resort. If you're looking for a quiet, tranquil place to settle down on the sand and watch the sunset, or go for a peaceful morning swim, Oneloa Beach is a real gem.
D.T. Fleming Beach Park
Good For: surfing
Although this beach can sometimes get crowded, there is plenty of space down its long, sandy expanse. The gradual slope is ideal for lounging and sunbathing. Conveniently, the ironwood trees offer shade, and there are shower and restroom facilities. It also features grills and picnic tables if you want to cook up your food or bring some with you. Although the beach is popular, it isn't nearly as touristy as Kaanapali Beach. The north swells bring good surf, and it's not only a preferred spot for surfers, but also for bodyboarders. Although conditions can kick up powerfully, there are lifeguards. As always, stick to clear, early mornings to enjoy lovely swimming conditions.
Good For: Surfing, Snorkeling
This is the one beach we're suggesting that's too rocky for good sunbathing or swimming. That being said, it's absolutely amazing for snorkeling when conditions are calm, and surfing when the swells are up. Honolua Bay is part of a Marine Life Conservation District, so taking anything is strictly prohibited, and that includes everything from fish to broken pieces of coral to rocks. When you go snorkeling here, you'll find out why it's such an important place for good stewardship. At this location, you'll discover a rainbow of gorgeous fish, and probably spot some turtles as well. As long as you opt for one of those calm, clear, early mornings, you're guaranteed to discover some truly amazing marine life. The visibility tends to be best away from the shoreline, even though it's rocky. Although this bay is relatively large, its whole expanse is just teeming with life, especially on the western side. In the winter, the swells bring amazing waves, which is why it's widely considered one of the best surf breaks in Maui waters, and even the world. Conveniently, it features an overlook on the east cliff where you can watch the surfers tackle the mesmerizing waves.
Good For: Surfing, Snorkeling
Before you start to worry, this beach didn't earn its name from its conditions, but from the Honolua Ranch slaughterhouse that was once located up on the cliff. Its Hawaiian name is Mokule’ia, which means “district of abundance.” People come to surf and to admire the wild, dramatic scenery from this pleasant stretch of sand. When the swells are up, the waves can get dangerously large in the winter, even for advanced surfers. The waves are much milder in the summer, and better suited to beginners. If you prefer uncrowded beaches, this one offers plenty of space for basking in the sun or sitting in the shade cast by the trees and cliffs above. If you'd like to go for a swim, opt for calm, clear, early mornings for the safest and most peaceful conditions. The same is true if you'd like to snorkel. Both ends of the beach feature an exciting collection of marine life. Just make sure to respect the ocean, and make your way back to the land as soon as conditions start to get rough. You'll find a small parking lot here, and a set of concrete stairs (with railing) to take you down the 100-foot-cliff to the beach.
When you're ready to take your Maui ocean adventures a step further, we hope you'll join us aboard one of our tours. We'll be happy to have you join us aboard our Maui sunset dinner cruise, and we can take you on a snorkeling tour to Lanai or Molokini. Mahalo!
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